Tag: manuscripts (page 1 of 6)

“Sweetly ululate”: the Lou Harrison collection

The coincidence of the anniversary, in June, of the events leading to the gay liberation movement in the United States, and the centennial of the birth of the composer, activist and gay icon Lou Harrison, in 2017, affords us the opportunity to highlight some important Harrison materials at the Loeb Music Library.

Lou Harrison was born in Portland, Oregon in 1917. His family moved to northern California in 1926 and most of Harrison’s career would be spend there, studying with Henry Cowell at San Francisco State College and with Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA, and teaching at Mills College, UCLA and other institutions. Travels in Asia and study of Asian instruments (Korean double-reed p’iri, Chinese psaltery, Indonesian gamelan) inspired a compositional style which incorporated Asian and Western styles and instruments. Harrison’s contributions to gay culture include several works for gay choruses, the best known of which is Three Songs, commissioned by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus in 1985. Another commission from the same group in 1988 was a reworking of Harrison’s opera Young Caesar, to which he added several choruses.

The Music Library’s collection of Lou Harrison materials covers the years 1945 to 1991, with most items dating from the 1970s and 1980s. There are musical manuscripts and drafts, poems and drawings, and correspondence with Virgil Thomson and Alan Hovhaness.

There are several drafts of the Young Caesar revision.

A draft of Scene 4 of Young Caesar, Lou Harrison's opera adapted for the Portland Gay Men's Chorus.

Ms. Coll. 132, Merritt Room

And many items in the collection show Harrison’s distinctive music and text handwriting. This draft of the Introitus from the Mass for St. Cecilia’s Day, for example, includes three unrelated poems: “The Lady Tamma lived in Palmyra”, “Rain in New Zealand, ” “Love is made of lust.”

This draft, for the Introitus of Lou Harrison's Mass for St. Cecilia, also includes three poems and some notes, all in Harrison's distinctive hand.

Ms. Coll. 132, Merritt Room

Links to this archival collection and to other collections of Lou Harrison materials may be found in his Wikipedia article, here. We regularly add links to Isham’s archival collections in Wikipedia, and hope you will feel free to add links yourself or to suggest that we do so, so that others may easily discover Isham’s collections. 

Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, use your Special Collections Request Account. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.

Eubie Blake 130

The Loeb Music Library holds several artifacts relating to the American pianist and composer Eubie Blake, born February 7th, 1887 in Baltimore.

In this portrait of Blake as a child, he poses on the steps of a  Baltimore home with his friend Howard “Hop” Jones and a dog. The original photograph, by an unidentified artist,  is thought to have been made in approximately 1899. The Music Library’s gelatin silver print reproduction dates from the 1970s.

Reproduction of photographic portrait of musician Eubie Blake and childhood friend Howard "Hop" Johns, 1899.

Howard “Hop” Johns and Eubie Blake, Merritt Room

We have three unusual dyeline reproductions of Blake’s manuscript scores: a ragtime piece for piano entitled Baltimore Todolo, as well as two songs from Chocolate Dandies, Blake’s moderately successful 1924 production with lyricist Noble Sissles (an earlier Sissles and Blake enterprise, Shuffle Along, was a hit and launched the careers of many significant black performers, including Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker).

Our copy of Baltimore Todolo is inscribed by the composer: “Not so easy to play, but if you practice you’ll like it, E.B.”

Dyeline manuscript copy of Eubie Blake's The Baltimore todolo.

Mus 630.133.405, Merritt Room

And Thinking of You, from Chocolate Dandies, is also inscribed: “Compliments of Eubie Blake to Mrs. Peggie Smith.”

Dyeline manuscript copy of Eubie Blake's Thinking of you.

Mus 630.133.606, Merritt Room

Smith and her husband, William, were fans who became devoted correspondents of Blake’s. Blake’s letters to the Smiths, along with Blake memorabilia the couple collected such as newspaper clippings and concert programs, make up the small and unique collection Eubie Blake Papers. Some letters from Blake’s lifelong collaborator, Shuffle Along leading man Ivan Harold Browning, are also found in this collection, as are first-edition scores, but mainly the papers are a warm and newsy correspondence between Blake and these fortunate fans.

Letter from Eubie Blake to William B. and Peggy Smith, dated 18 January 1970, postmarked Brooklyn, New York.

Ms. Coll. 105, Merritt Room

Song from Eubie Blake's Shuffle along, 1921.

Ms. Coll. 105, Merritt Room

One last extraordinary Eubie Blake item in our library is this one-page note to the composer and arranger William Grant Still.

Letter from Eubie Blake to William Grant Still, written 9 February 1959, Brooklyn, New York.

ML 410.B6247 A4 1959, Merritt Room

Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, use your Special Collections Request Account. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.

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